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Any updates on Popayan-Pasto road in Colombia?

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Any updates on Popayan-Pasto road in Colombia?

Old 03-15-23, 06:08 PM
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Any updates on Popayan-Pasto road in Colombia?

I am heading towards Ecuador and I know that the PanAmerican Highway was closed by a landslide between Popayan and Pasto but has been partially re-opened. However, I am hearing and reading different accounts of how much it has re-opened and how messy the situation is now (March 2023). Most recent account I have seen online is this one:
https://roamingtofreedom.org/2023/02/

But I think it's a bit out of date. Discussions with some non-bicycle travellers seemed to suggest the situation is now a bit better but always hard to interpret non-cyclist accounts. There is the famous Trampolina Muerte via Mocoa as the alternative route: I am not particularly interested in that for various reasons, but I would probably prefer it to being stuck on a highway for 12-24 hours (according to some accounts) or getting stuck in deep mud.
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Old 03-16-23, 07:59 AM
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If you can find exactly where the slide occurred, what about calling or emailing a business near to the slide asking about the status? Sorry, I can't help more. Tailwinds, John
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Old 03-16-23, 11:12 AM
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Two sources I consulted when I was in the area:

iOverlander application. I notice that someone has marked both start/finish of the landslide area and noted their travels at start of February. I haven't refreshed my database but there could be newer accounts as well.

Update: web account - https://www.ioverlander.com/places/207247-detour-for-big-landslide

The Cycling Alaska to Patagonia Facebook group seems to be quieter now but may also have others in the area

Last edited by mev; 03-16-23 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 03-16-23, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
Two sources I consulted when I was in the area:

iOverlander application. I notice that someone has marked both start/finish of the landslide area and noted their travels at start of February. I haven't refreshed my database but there could be newer accounts as well.

Update: web account - https://www.ioverlander.com/places/2...-big-landslide

The Cycling Alaska to Patagonia Facebook group seems to be quieter now but may also have others in the area
Thanks 👍 I did look at Overlander but didn't see that account, will take another look. Didn't know about that Facebook group either; will be useful.

Originally Posted by John N
If you can find exactly where the slide occurred, what about calling or emailing a business near to the slide asking about the status? Sorry, I can't help more. Tailwinds, John
Good thinking. My poor Spanish is a bit of an obstacle but I may try this if I can find a suitable business. Otherwise I will ask around in Popayan. One of my hosts this evening seemed to think that there is a good detour in place with a stop-go system.
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Old 03-20-23, 08:19 PM
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In the end I did it without further information, since I had enough reports that it would be possible to get through.

For the benefit of anyone else doing this route soon, here's some information.

Coming from Cali/Popayan side (north) there was a long queue of trucks, at least 50 maybe 70 or more. But it was no problem to cycle past them.

I thought the official diversion would be clearly signposted but if it was I did not see the signs. So I must have missed the turn and ended-up going all the way to the actual site of the landslide. If you also do that there are three options:
1. Try to get your bike down into the valley and up the other side on your own. I doubt you will succeed with a loaded bike because the slopes are very steep. (This guy tried that and then opted for option 2: https://roamingtofreedom.org/2023/02/)
2. Get help to take the bike down and up. I was offered this for 50,000COP which was extortionate. (They also wanted to take the bike and have me walk separately, which would have meant they were out of sight for a while...)
3. Use the pulley system that's been rigged up for heavy baggage and motorbikes. (See picture below) That's the option I chose, paid 30,000COP but I suspect locals are paying a bit less. You then walk while your bike flies over your head!

Based on what I heard from others who had taken buses, etc, I still think it may be better to find and use the official diversion. But unfortunately having missed that I can't provide any more information about it.


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Old 03-21-23, 05:18 AM
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Thanks for the update.

I am curious on a few things. iOverlander had reported in early February account that the road was alternating days with southbound one day, northbound the next and not sure of weekends.

Did you get a sense if that might be happening, e.g. were the trucks likely parking there for the day?, or until the southern end of the closure did you see traffic coming the other way?
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Old 03-21-23, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by afrowheels
In the end I did it without further information, since I had enough reports that it would be possible to get through.

3. Use the pulley system that's been rigged up for heavy baggage and motorbikes. (See picture below) That's the option I chose, paid 30,000COP but I suspect locals are paying a bit less. You then walk while your bike flies over your head!
I love the ingenuity and capitalism of non "first world" countries. In the USA, the government would shut down the road and spend $100 million and 3 years to replace the road all while the entire time the locals are severely inconvenienced and definitely not allow the locals to do what the wonderful Columbians did with the pulley system, even if the cheated the tourist.

Hope that is the last of unpleasant surprises on your tour. Tailwinds, John
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Old 03-22-23, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
Thanks for the update.

I am curious on a few things. iOverlander had reported in early February account that the road was alternating days with southbound one day, northbound the next and not sure of weekends.

Did you get a sense if that might be happening, e.g. were the trucks likely parking there for the day?, or until the southern end of the closure did you see traffic coming the other way?
Good questions. I have heard two versions: that it's a one *hour* stop-go and that it's a one *day* stop-go. When I went through it seemed like it was all stopped. Because when I got over the valley and started cycling I eventually came to a stop with trucks from the other direction queued up as well (shorter queue, maybe 40). On the southbound route the drivers did not look like they were expecting to move soon: one was in a hammock under his truck, others were polishing their mirrors, etc. The northbound lot seemed more expectant.

When I'd asked one of the touts at the valley about the alternative route he seemed to suggest (my bad Spanish again) that it was under maintenance and so not a good option. I'd also seen more ambulances than usual coming-and-going so it's possible there had been an accident that was being cleared up. But this is all rather speculative.

It was noticeable that the next day there was no truck traffic at all going south, at least until about 3pm when I arrived. That would seem to support the one day at a time version.
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Old 03-22-23, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by John N
I love the ingenuity and capitalism of non "first world" countries. In the USA, the government would shut down the road and spend $100 million and 3 years to replace the road all while the entire time the locals are severely inconvenienced and definitely not allow the locals to do what the wonderful Columbians did with the pulley system, even if the cheated the tourist.

Hope that is the last of unpleasant surprises on your tour. Tailwinds, John
Definitely. I certainly appreciated the innovative solution. And the price was not unreasonable even if it may have been more than the locals paid.

Having said that, if the cable had snapped and dropped my bike 50m or on someone's head I may have ended-up with a different view on things! (One of my brake hoods did actually get bent in the process but I'm not sure how and it's still working fine).

I dare say it will not be the last unpleasant surprise on this kind of trip, but hopefully they all work out this well - thanks!
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Old 03-28-23, 06:30 AM
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afrowheels not sure which way you are headed through Ecuador. However looks unfortunately there is another landslide along the Pan-American Highway - https://www.npr.org/2023/03/27/11664...dslide-ecuador around 300km south of Quito.

It might be cleared by time you arrive and Google Maps suggests an alternate route to Aluasi. I came via Aluasi on my trip from Quito to Cuenca and noted it as "Aluasi is a great little town at bottom of a steep valley." Unfortunately, looks like parts of that steep valley came down in a mudslide on the south side of town.
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Old 04-01-23, 07:47 PM
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Thanks, appreciate the info 👍 I'd missed this but someone else also drew it to my attention.

I have only a vague sense of my routes until a few weeks in advance but had been thinking of going that way. As it happens I will probably be taking a 3 week break off the bike in Ecuador and so it may well be cleared by then.

I know that central and southern Colombia have had an unusually heavy and extended rainy season which has been the cause of the major landslides here. I imagine Ecuador may be experiencing something similar.

Do you have a blog from your trip? If so I'd be interested in taking a look.


Originally Posted by mev
afrowheels not sure which way you are headed through Ecuador. However looks unfortunately there is another landslide along the Pan-American Highway - https://www.npr.org/2023/03/27/11664...dslide-ecuador around 300km south of Quito.

It might be cleared by time you arrive and Google Maps suggests an alternate route to Aluasi. I came via Aluasi on my trip from Quito to Cuenca and noted it as "Aluasi is a great little town at bottom of a steep valley." Unfortunately, looks like parts of that steep valley came down in a mudslide on the south side of town.
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Old 04-02-23, 07:11 AM
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afrowheels agree if you have some time before reaching - they also have time to clear the debris on the slide.

I did keep a blog. Here is a pointer to the Ecuador summary page - Ecuador - A bicycle ride across the Americas

I entered at Tulcan and went via Quito and Cuenca. At that point I decided to go down to the coast and entered Peru at Tumbes. As you know from your riding in Colombia, the lowlands can be hot and humid so that is also why I liked staying higher for a while. However, once I got to the coast of Peru, there was a cold current that kept everything much more reasonable.
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Old 06-14-23, 09:14 PM
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Update on PanAmerican highway to Cuenca via Aluasi

Further to the landslide by Aluasi. The PanAmerican is still closed as far as I could tell - bodies still being recovered over 6 weeks later. However there is a gravel diversion that is open - as marked on Overlander. Downside is that it takes you down towards the bottom of the valley, so you have to climb back up again (and then keep on climbing if you are not stopping in Aluasi). But it's very passable.

I did not actually ride on the highway all the way to the closure. Started doing that but a local I asked on the way told me definitively that there was no way through. And I did later see the recovery teams at work from the town side.

Originally Posted by mev
afrowheels not sure which way you are headed through Ecuador. However looks unfortunately there is another landslide along the Pan-American Highway - https://www.npr.org/2023/03/27/11664...dslide-ecuador around 300km south of Quito.

It might be cleared by time you arrive and Google Maps suggests an alternate route to Aluasi. I came via Aluasi on my trip from Quito to Cuenca and noted it as "Aluasi is a great little town at bottom of a steep valley." Unfortunately, looks like parts of that steep valley came down in a mudslide on the south side of town.
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